110 Dignam to Evatt

Cablegram 619 DUBLIN, 9 September 1946, 5.41 p.m.


Following personal message for the Minister has been received from Dignam. [1]

Reference Canberra's 4999, High Commissioner's credentials. [2]

The Irish Government would prefer at least a short formal letter of introduction signed by the Prime Minister and/or yourself for presentation at the official ceremony at Dublin Castle followed by a banquet similar to reception of Foreign Representatives. The United Kingdom representative here, Sir John Maffey, regards a letter as objectionable and dislikes the idea even of a ceremony on the ground of weakening British Commonwealth links to treat a member in any respect like a foreigner. The Irish view is that members of the family, and Australia before any, are entitled at least to the same if not greater status and dignity than an outsider. In any event, they will accord myself and staff full diplomatic precedence, privileges and immunity. The recent Canadian High Commissioner [3] died on arrival before presenting very formal letters patent of appointment by the King as High Commission[er] under the Great Seal of Canada signed by the Governor-General, Secretary of State and Attorney-General. The document was given to and retained by the Irish Government. A photostatic copy is being forwarded to you by air. Presumably in the near future the new Canadian High Commissioner [4] will present a similar document. As far as I am aware, Maffey has never been informed of the existence of this document. My views on display as such are well known to yourself but I would gladly accept the same to please the people here and the Irish in Australia.

A more important question involves precedent and the Australian Government's views on the issue raised by Maffey. His viewpoint is similar to the Opposition attitude on questions arising in recent years concerning Australia's adoption of the Westminister Statute [5] and independent declaration of war. Maffey's view exaggerates the importance of outward formality and conflicts with the more generally accepted Australian viewpoint that British Commonwealth links are not so fragile as to depend on abstention from or be endangered by ceremony of this kind.

I can arrange a short delay of say two weeks to enable you to fully consider but would appreciate an interim reply immediately with your prima facie reaction. If you feel that, notwithstanding the Canadian precedent, Australia should not follow pending fuller discussion and consideration, would like authority to endeavour to arrange a compromise of official ceremony of reception and/or banquet without document. The Irish Government would be genuinely disappointed if all three were abandoned.

This cable is a substitution for 'full reply by air' to 4999 promised in Wednesday's cable. Cannot use British or Irish or public telegraph, typex, teleprinter, telephone between London and Dublin with secrecy on this matter. External Affairs Officer, London, advised how to communicate.

1 Dignam arrived in Dublin on 1 September 1946.

2 Dispatched 2 September, it stated that, as no Australian High Commissioner had presented formal letters of accreditation, it was not proposed to issue one to Dignam, 'unless the Government of Eire expects it'. Since letters of credence were addressed from one head of state to another, High Commissioners, as heads of mission in British Commonwealth countries under a common sovereign simply carried letters signed by the Minister as evidence of appointment.

3 M. M. Mahoney.

4 W. F. A. Turgeon.

5 The Statute of Westminster freed dominion parliaments from legislative control by the U.K. Parliament. It was proclaimed in December 1931, and adopted by the Australian Federal Parliament in 1942.

[AA:A1066, E45/11/7]